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Woman killed in I-70 crash leaves behind 5 teenage children

Wednesday - 11/30/2011, 11:39am  ET

Mawi children (Frederick News-Post)
Anis Mawi, who was killed Saturday in a crash on I-70, is pictured with her five children. From left are Mamuan, Nu Te and Jamima Mawi, Anis Mawi, Tuan Nei Mawi and Jafaniah Thang. (Frederick News-Post)

Anis Mawi rose at 4 a.m. to pray at least six days a week before leaving the family apartment in Frederick to pick and pack fruit on a farm in Laurel.

When she returned home to her five children, they prayed together before turning to the rest of the day's tasks, according to Mawi's eldest daughter, Tuan Nei Mawi.

Their mother had taken on the role of nurturer and breadwinner after their father died in Myanmar in 2001, Tuan Nei said.

Anis Mawi died Saturday in a car crash on I-70 near New Market while traveling to her job with four of her Taylor Farms co-workers. Mawi's colleague Selly Tle Sin Kai, 33, also died in the crash.

Maryland State Police troopers had stopped traffic in the eastbound lanes of I-70 after 5 a.m. to search for suspects in the shooting of a Frederick man earlier Saturday outside Martinsburg, W.Va., state police said.

The troopers halted traffic to protect passers-by while looking for suspects who were considered armed and dangerous, according to state police spokeswoman Elena Russo.

Believing the suspects might have boarded a charter bus after the shooting, authorities stopped a charter bus near Exit 56 on I-70, police said. Police escorted the bus to the New Market scale house, searched it and found no suspects on board.

The fatal crash happened when a Chevrolet van rear-ended a Toyota Corolla the farmworkers were traveling in. The Corolla spun out of control and into the median, causing a chain reaction that involved 12 people in four vehicles. Others who were injured in the crash were treated and released, Russo said. She did not provide their names or specify how many people were hurt.

Police are still investigating and are waiting to consult with the Frederick County State's Attorney's Office regarding whether charges will be filed, Russo said.

Washington County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested two Hagerstown men Saturday in connection with the shooting, after a traffic stop in Hagerstown, said Lt. Gary Harmison, of the Berkeley County, W.Va., Sheriff's Department.

A devoted mother

The Mawi family -- Anis with her four daughters and a son, the youngest of whom is 13 -- came to Frederick from Myanmar, formerly Burma, as refugees in December 2008.

Anis Mawi soon found work at the farm. When she was not at her job, she spent time with her children, Tuan Nei said.

Tuan Nei, 19, was interviewed Tuesday with two fellow church members, the Rev. San No Thuan and Andrew Luai, who helped translate from the Chin dialect into English.

After two years on the job, Anis Mawi had earned 10 days of paid vacation and was planning to use some of that time to attend Tuan Nei's graduation from Frederick High School this June, she said.

Anis Mawi liked Frederick, Luai and Tuan Nei said, and she encouraged relatives and friends in Myanmar to visit.

Her mother was a deeply religious Christian, Tuan Nei said, and the family attended Falam Baptist Church in Frederick, which holds services in their native Chin.

The family sang in the church choir, Luai said, and Anis Mawi was a women's fellowship leader.

Each Sunday morning, Anis Mawi would gently wake her children by placing her hands on them and praying over them, Tuan Nei said.

She described her mother as a loving, gentle person who didn't speak ill of others. She encouraged her children to grow spiritually as well as physically, to put God first in whatever they did and to give thanks for the blessing God bestowed upon them.

The Mawi children were joined Tuesday by members of their church and others from the area Chin community who stopped by to give their condolences, to talk and to join in a nightly worship service held in their apartment since Mawi was killed.